Tuesday, April 27, 2021

April Book Report, Jews Don't Count by David Baddiel


I grew up in San Antonio, Texas. In case you don’t know, that’s just on the edge of the Bible Belt. I’d guess that Southern Baptist was the dominant religion at the time of my youth in San Antonio. My parents were from St. Louis and had lived in New York before moving to Texas. My mom was a practicing Catholic. My dad… There’s this thing in Texas where if you go to a new church (not Catholic) and sign their guest book, they show up at your house with a pie. At least that was a thing in Texas. For a while, my dad shopped churches. For the pies. He would go with my mom to church as long as it wasn’t the “jingle bell choir” - guitars. Otherwise he’d often try a new one when he was in the mood for a pie.

Being raised Catholic is something which creates a lasting impression even if you don’t stick with it. Lots of guilt. Lots of believing without believing that there is a hell and you are probably going there. Lots of feeling watched and judged all the time, even at home alone.

Beside the lifetime of repressed Catholic thoughts, being a Catholic in Texas means you aren’t a Christian. You are something else. Not quite as bad as being a heathen, but to some people maybe you are?

I’m not sure that this applies just in Texas, either. Story time.

I make jewelry and my most popular YouTube jewelry tutorial is the tree-of-life pendant. I like to make them (tree-of-life pendants) and it sort of became my signature piece. I will make them out of copper wire and do what I can to keep the cost to me down under $5/ tree - excluding labor time. If I’m out in the world (in the before times) and someone compliments the tree-of-life pendant I’m wearing I’ve been known to pull one out of my purse and give it as a gift. When I went to Europe in 2014 I carried several extra to give to people who were kind to me, not knowing if I’d need them. I did, but you can read about that on my other posts about my trip to Europe.

I was in Ross one day and a woman complimented my tree-of-life pendant. I pulled one out of my purse and gave it to her. It was a copper tree with black beads. “Don’t you have another color?” Um, that doesn’t seem like an appropriate question when you’ve been given a spontaneous gift, but regardless of what I might have in my purse, the answer is no. “No.” “Oh, it’s just black… It’s the devil’s color.” I didn’t know that. I like black. I thought God made all the colors, including black. “Are you a Christian?” she asked me. “Well, I’m Catholic.” “Oh, so you’re not a Christian. Do you have some time for me to tell you the good news?” “No.”

Anyway, even in a Ross Dress-for-Less in Los Angeles, being Catholic does not make you a Christian. End of that story.

I knew a handful of Jews growing up. And by handful, I can distinctly remember two of them right now. Colin and Benji. One of my mom’s good friends from New York, Shelley, was Jewish. I think I just assumed it was a different religion and that even more than I didn’t get counted as a Christian in Texas, they didn’t get counted as Christians. At least for them it was because they weren’t.

Let me tell you another story. My next-door neighbors, until I was about 11, were Southern Baptist. During the summer, instead of going to summer camp (I’ve never been), I know at least one summer I went to vacation Bible school with the neighbors. It was a lot of fun. We sang a lot. We colored a lot. It was SO much better than CCD. I understood why, if there was a choice, you would choose Southern Baptist over Catholic.

I went to church with them one Sunday and I was presented with a huge Bible to take home. I was under 11 and given this super-fancy, expensive Bible. My parents weren’t convinced they had just given it to me, but I went with the neighbors and they brought me home with it. I could hardly hide the thing. They accepted that’s what happened. End of that story.

I moved to California in 1997, when I was 23. I got here in September, I think, and by December I was working at a small post production company in Hollywood. My boss ran the company with his wife. They were Jewish. I met an editor there named Gene. He was Jewish. Another employee at a company we did a ton of work with, Karl, was Jewish.

I had a huge crush on Karl, and probably still would if I saw him again. My boss knew this and said, “But he’s Jewish.” My boss thought I was very Catholic (I wasn’t). I thought my boss was telling me that because Karl was Jewish, he only dated Jewish women. I bought a book called What Does Being Jewish Mean and read it. It was for kids, but I think that’s also a good start for a Texan young woman. (I looked for it to take a picture of, but I don’t think I still have it. I’d read it and I’ve moved a few times since then. And my cat pees on lots of things and I have to throw them away.)

I remember part of a conversation I had not long after with Gene where I insisted that Judaism, being Jewish, was just another religion. “Like I’m Catholic, you’re Jewish.” That wasn’t how Gene saw it. He was an immigrant from Russia (at a young enough age you would never know). To him, being Jewish was his race.

For my April book report, I read Jews Don’t Count by David Baddiel. I’m a little bit of an Anglophile, when it comes to things like entertainment and architecture (I think the monarchy is stupid), so I follow David Baddiel on Twitter and read a lot of reviews and comments about this book.  Although there are a lot of incidences talked about in the book which have not made the news here in the States, there is a lot which is universal in it. The part I struggle with, that being Jewish is not just a religion, but a race, is part of what the book confronts. I haven’t solved it within myself, but I’m doing what I can to understand.

There’s no way to say the next thing without sounding incredibly patronizing, but some of my best friends are Jewish. But they really are! My dearest friends, who I would do anything for and who I would rely on if I was in a jam, are Jewish. The friend who would took me to the hospital for surgery at 4 am. The friend who flew with me to Texas on 2-day notice to help me clean out some things from my mom’s house. (Katherine and Arrika, if you are wondering since I’ve provided other names.)

I don’t feel like I can write a standard book report for this book. It’s isn’t a story. It is a very long essay which asks the reader to be contemplative. I’ve been doing that. Part of what I contemplated was if I should even write that I read the book.

Why? Because I know that anti-Semitism is so prolific on the internet, that even just to write about this book I’m opening up the possibility I’ll be attacked. I have a choice to talk about it or not, so I should. The people who regularly get attacked, online and in the real world, don’t have a choice.

But that might be the extent to which I talk about it. You should read it. You should think about it. You should sit with it and consider if there are times in your life when you’ve been dismissive about anti-Semitism as not being as serious an offence as other forms of racism. I hope I haven’t, and I hope that if I do, my friends will feel comfortable enough to let me know.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Quest for the Perfect Honeysuckle Perfume

 Not that long ago, I bought some honeysuckle perfume on a whim. And I was a little disappointed by it. I didn’t dislike it as a perfume, but it was called Aerin Mediterranean Honeysuckle and it didn’t smell like honeysuckle. It is a light citrus floral perfume, but the floral does not evoke honeysuckle.

My general disappointment with that perfume started me on a quest. Is there actually a perfume that captures the smell of honeysuckle?

I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and we always had a honeysuckle bush in the yard. I remember going outside when the flowers were blooming and picking them to get the one little drop of nectar each flower yielded. You pick the flower and pull the style through the bottom. The stigma gets one little drop of liquid attached to it from the pull and you lick that. It tastes the way the flower smells, but in a sweet, sugary way.

You know how sometimes you spray perfume or air freshener and you get it in your mouth? That isn’t what this is like. To really capture the honeysuckle scent, the perfume needs to smell like it would taste good, overcoming the natural instinct we have that tells us a perfume will taste terrible. Yes, it will taste terrible, but it should entice you to maybe try it, just to double check.

To my mind, there are three different notes that the honeysuckle fragrance needs to cover. First, it needs to have a white floral scent, because it is, after all, a flower. Second, it needs to have that sweetness to it that makes you want to taste it. And third, it should have a slightly herbal note to remind you of picking the flower right off of the stem.

I bought every perfume with honeysuckle in the name I could find with relative ease. I skipped the bottle of perfume that Anthropologie discontinued carrying because the price on eBay was triple the original price. And I didn’t buy anything where honeysuckle was just included as a note in the ingredients. Some of these are no longer being made, but I found them for decent prices on eBay. So, from worst to best, here are the honeysuckle perfumes I have tried and ranked.

11. Lollia Dream (White Tea and Honeysuckle) from Margot Elena. This was very powdery and reminded me of something my grandmother would have worn. I don’t know if she ever wore anything that wasn’t from the dime store. She used cornsilk powder and smelled like cornsilk powder. The teeny-tiny bottle I bought was $10, and did not include shipping. It smelled really cheap and I will never wear this. The honeysuckle fragrance does not come through.

10. Sparkling Honeysuckle from Mary Kay. It lists the scents as pear, mandarin, honeysuckle, freesia and iris. All of those things added together added up to gardenia to me. That’s all I could smell. The sprayer was good, though.

9. Sweet Honeysuckle by Perlier. This smelled very soapy and powdery to me. It had a bitter tinge, too. I didn’t get honeysuckle at all with this one.

8. Wild Honeysuckle by Bath & Body Works. The notes on this are jasmine, violet, honeydew and cassis. This had a very generic “perfume” smell to me. Not sure how better to describe it. None of the individual notes stand out. The overall effect is a sweet floral, without the sweetness of wanting to taste it.

7. Mediterranean Honeysuckle in Bloom by Aerin. The notes are honeysuckle, tuberose, honey and citrus. This smells pretty good when sprayed on a card, but when sprayed on myself, it didn’t smell good at all. It is the second perfume with tuberose in it that I’ve tried recently and I’m going to say that tuberose doesn’t work with my body chemistry. It smells sweet on the verge of rotten. Really unpleasant, and it also gives me a headache. Why did I rank it so high then? Because it smells good on paper and someone else might have better luck with it on their skin.

6. Green Tea & Honeysuckle by Elizabeth Arden. This is a very inexpensive perfume. The green tea is very strong and the honeysuckle not so much. But because it is cheap, it requires a big spray and it wears off very quickly. After like 30 minutes, I couldn’t smell it at all.

5. Honeysuckle by Caswell-Massey. This is from the New York Botanical Garden line. It smells very close to honeysuckle, but it is missing the note of nectar. It smells pretty, but you know it would taste terrible.

4. Fresh Honeysuckle by Fresh. The top note on this one is very fruity. Peach and black current. The fruitiness is juicy and delicious. That gives way to a honeysuckle and jasmine blend. The jasmine pushes it a little too far into the white floral category, but the top note is so delightful, I’ll put this on just for that.

3. Mediterranean Honeysuckle by Aerin. This is the perfume that started it all. It is a light citrus and I like it. But I do have to spray on a lot of it. And it makes me sneeze. I don’t know what in it makes me sneeze, but after ten minutes or so the sneezing stops. The honeysuckle is there, but very subtle.

2. Honeysuckle and Davana by Jo Malone of London. I don’t know what davana is, but here it gives the perfume an herbal quality. The davana helps provide the idea that the flowers grow on a green plant. The honeysuckle is subtle again. But I really like this perfume. It is not only a good daytime perfume, but something I like to put on at bedtime.

1. Honeysuckle by Demeter. This is amazing. It smells just like honeysuckle. No other way to say it. It delivers.


What I’m doing is wearing either my 2 or 3 pick perfume and adding the Demeter Honeysuckle to it. This pushes the honeysuckle to the front so I can really smell it, but adds dimension with the other notes from the perfumes. The blast of fresh honeysuckle makes me smile. It takes me back to my childhood, and I’m so glad I found the perfect scent to recreate the feeling.